Never mind healthcare, government goes after robocalls to everyone’s satisfaction

WYOMING – Hardly anyone answers their phone anymore. Smartphones with caller ID have made Americans gun-shy about saying hi when it’s a number they don’t recognize.

Why? Too many robocalls, too many scammers.

It’s made us afraid to pickup a call from a number not in our contact list (Who would just call out of the blue?) the same way the mobile phone has made most of us reluctant to answer the doorbell (Who would just drop in unannounced?). We don’t even leave voicemails anymore, preferring the visual assurance from a text that a random contact has nothing to do with aluminum siding or jury duty.

Finally, something every legislator (all but one senator, apparently) can agree on whether we are right or left, man or woman, old or young…we are all annoyed by robocalls. (Daria Nepriakhina)

It might be a First World problem, but politicians are at least aware of it and trying to do something about it.

The US Senate today passed bipartisan legislation (S.151) by a 97-1 vote to address the increasing number of robocall scams. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which US Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both R-Wyo., cosponsored, gives regulators more time to find scammers, increases civil forfeiture penalties, promotes call authentication and blocking adoption, and establishes a working group to better prosecute and deter illegal robocalls.

“I have heard from folks all over Wyoming about the countless scam phone calls they receive—and I’ve received several myself,” Enzi said. “These calls are a nuisance and many people have even become reluctant to answer their phones. I am glad the Senate took an important step to help consumers and hold these scammers accountable.”

Barrasso, too, agreed robocalls area pain in the posterior for everyone.

“One of the biggest complaints I hear from people in Wyoming is that they’re being hassled by unwanted robocalls, which are often scams,” Barrasso said. “The TRACED Act will help stop these unwanted calls and crack down on the scammers and companies that are behind them.”

Summary of the TRACED Act:

  • Broadens the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to levy civil penalties of up to $10,000 per call on people who intentionally flout telemarketing restrictions.
  • Extends the window for the FCC to catch and take civil enforcement action against intentional violations to three years after a robocall is placed. Under current law, the FCC has only one year to do so, and the FCC has told the committee that “even a one-year longer statute of limitations for enforcement” would improve enforcement against willful violators.
  • Brings together the Department of Justice, FCC, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Commerce, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other relevant federal agencies, as well as state attorneys general and other non-federal entities to identify and report to Congress on improving deterrence and criminal prosecution at the federal and state level of robocall scams.
  • Requires voice service providers to adopt call authentication technologies, enabling a telephone carrier to verify that incoming calls are legitimate before they reach consumers’ phones.
  • Directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to help protect subscribers from receiving unwanted calls or texts from callers.

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